The Sexual Education and Peer Support drop-in Centre (SEC) is a service group under the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) and has been running for over two decades now. The center is available on all University of Toronto campuses. The head executives are Aalam Virk and Minah Tariq. Virk is a fifth-year undergraduate student, majoring in criminology and minoring in political sciences and ethics. Tariq is a fourth-year student, double majoring in biology and biological anthropology. They have been head executives for two years now and they essentially train volunteers and run the centres.
UTM SEC offers a number of services which include phone-in service, library services, and Sexuality Awareness week. In addition to this, they have drop-in hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday. Drop-in services include general information, one-to-one peer counselling sessions, and referrals. They also have a number of resources available at their office in the Student Centre. These resources include free condoms and lubricant, free literature and pamphlets, and reference books and videos which can also be rented. All services, resources, rentals, and visits are free and confidential.
In addition to these services, the centre holds a number of events throughout the semester. According to Amrit Gill, the external education executive, they hold at least five events per year. They hosted an event on November 12th called “Sex Work Best Practices,” where Maggie’s Toronto, a sex workers’ organization, came in as guests. Their aim was to educate, advocate, support, and assist the lives of sex workers.
Virk highlights that the volunteers and executives at the centre are “tasked with just providing resources to the student body,” “geared towards creating a safe space for any student who wants to come in,” and responsible for running “workshops on campus.”
Tariq says, “the focus of these workshops is to try and identify the key issues within the community that we believe need to be discussed or we believe need to have attention brought to them.” These are the issues that affect “the student body regarding sexuality [and] gender identity.” Tariq further explains that they conduct workshops and “work with speakers outside of campus who come in and provide informative sessions, mostly lecture-based, activity-based things that allow us to have a nuisance discussion of these topics with people who are experts on them.”
For the peer support individual sessions, SEC has a separate room to help provide a safe and private space for students who wish to share any concerns or just seek to talk to someone privately about their personal matters. SEC engages in active listening and discussion carefully with the individual, but they do avoid giving advice to students during such sessions as they aim to keep it professional and allow room for personal choices. The separate room is specifically utilized only for one-to-one peer support. Students can seek to speak with either an executive or a volunteer.
The executives invite students to apply for volunteer positions as the applications are now open for the next semester. Students are encouraged to drop by at the SEC office for information, individual sessions, picking up any of the available items, or just to talk.